f1.jpg Names: Hugh, Karla, Jone

The GOAL of grounded theory -TO GENERATE A THEORY

In Emergence We Trust:
I pledge allegiance to the grounded theory, and to the united emergence of category, for which it stands, one theory, modifiable, with validity, relevance, general, and "just do it" for all!

Barney G. Glaser American sociologist and one of the founders of the grounded theory methodology with his wife.

Anselm L. Strauss
– December 18, 1916 – September 5, 1996was an American sociologist who worked the field of medical sociology. He is well known as co-founder of Grounded Theory.

  • Grounded theory was introduced by Glaser and Strauss in their 1967 book, The Discovery of Grounded Theory. What Glaser and Strauss suggested as grounded theory is actually a "systematic, qualitative process used to generate a theory that explains, at a broad conceptual level, a process, an action, or interaction about a substantive topic" (Creswell, 2002, p.439).

  • theory from data systematically gathered and analyzed.
  • Continuous interplay between data collection and analysis
  • Cases similar on many variables but with different outcomes are compared to see where the key causal differences lie.
  • Consists of a set of steps that if careful executed is thought to “guarantee” a good theory as the outcome.
  • Use categories drawn from participants themselves


The sample is emergent, as is the theory and the method generally.
  • Read and re-read a textual database
  • Discover or label categories and concepts and their relationships (theoretical sensitivity)
  • Use field notes
  • Use observations of behavior (interactions and events)
  • Open coding - identifying, naming, describing, and categorizing phenomena found in texts.
  • Axial coding - the process of relating codes to each other through a process of inductive and deductive reasoning.
  • Selective coding - choosing one category to the be the core category and relating all others to the chosen category.
  • Memos – short documents written as one proceeds through the analysis
According to Steve Borgatti in discussions drawn from Strauss & Corbin and, Strauss & Glaser Axial Coding is given this discription:
Axial coding is the process of relating codes (categories and properties) to each other, via a combination of inductive and deductive thinking. To simplify this process, rather than look for any and all kind of relations, grounded theorists emphasize causal relationships, and fit things into a basic frame of generic relationships. The frame consists of the following elements:
This is what in schema theory might be called the name of the schema or frame. It is the concept that holds the bits together. In grounded theory it is sometimes the outcome of interest, or it can be the subject.
Causal conditions
These are the events or variables that lead to the occurrence or development of the phenomenon. It is a set of causes and their properties.
Hard to distinguish from the causal conditions. It is the specific locations (values) of background variables. A set of conditions influencing the action/strategy. Researchers often make a quaint distinction between active variables (causes) and background variables (context). It has more to do with what the researcher finds interesting (causes) and less interesting (context) than with distinctions out in nature.
Intervening conditions
Similar to context. If we like, we can identify context with moderating variables and intervening conditions with mediating variables. But it is not clear that grounded theorists cleanly distinguish between these two.
Action strategies
The purposeful, goal-oriented activities that agents perform in response to the phenomenon and intervening conditions.
These are the consequences of the action strategies, intended and unintended.
In the text segment above, it seems obvious that the phenomenon of interest is pain, the causal conditions are arthritis, the action strategy is taking drugs, and the consequence is pain relief. Note that grounded theorists don't show much interest in the consequences of the phenomenon itself.
It should be noted again that a fallacy of some grounded theory work is that they take the respondent's understanding of what causes what as truth. That is, they see the informant as an insider expert, and the model they create is really the informant's folk model.

Grounded theory was developed as a systematic methodology in which researchers were able to destroy the confines of traditional ethnographic descriptions and gravitate towards an era of building theories from data. Moreover, grounded theory consists of four stages that can be described as a set of overlapping stages and
constant comparison is the heart of the process.
  • data collection - the researcher observes, talks to people, and engages in whatever other data collection seems appropriate.
  • note-taking - capturing the key elements of each data collection immediately afterwards
  • coding - the researcher writes in the margin of the notes the "categories" and "properties" contained or implied by each sentence of the notes
  • memoing - the researcher writes memos to herself or himself on the theoretical hypotheses arising from the coding

The memos progressively build the theory from the categories and properties of the coding, and the links between them. The data are noted and coded almost as they are collected.

This may be diagrammed as follows:

According to Lehmann another example of a grounded theory model could look like this:
Another example of s grounded theory model is located below: